Skip to main content


Showing posts from October 27, 2017

Kenya calls off repeat poll in opposition areas

Kenya’s electoral body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission on Friday postponed elections in key opposition areas after protesters disrupted the exercise on Thursday. Making the announcement to reporters on Friday, Chairman Wafula Chebukati said the commission had "deliberated on the various incidents happening around the country and has postponed the elections scheduled to take place tomorrow [Saturday ] to another date scheduled to be announced". Earlier in the day, clerics in Kenya had criticized Kenya's electoral body for calling for elections on Saturday in opposition strongholds especially because most of the residents from Western Kenya (Nyanza region) are members of the Seventh-day Adventist church and mostly go to worship on Saturday. The leader of opposition, Raila Odinga, who boycotted Thursday’s elections, broke the silence on Friday by urging his supporters to boycott the planned Saturday repeat elections in his strongholds, h

Bush senior faces third sexual harassment accusation

The British author of a New York Times bestseller on Friday accused former President George H.W. Bush of sexual harassment, becoming the third woman in a week to make the allegation. Christina Baker Kline, who wrote ‘A Piece of the World’, said the 93-year-old former president touched her from behind and made a joke from his wheelchair while her husband stood beside him at an event in Houston, Texas in 2014. The alleged harassment occurred after a luncheon at a private home before Baker Kline and other writers attended a fundraiser for the Barbara Bush Foundation. "President Bush put his arm around me, low on my back…and squeezed my butt, hard, just as the photographer snapped the photo," Baker Kline wrote in an article for Slate Magazine. "Instinctively, I swiped his hand away.” Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said earlier this week that the president was just trying to put people "at ease", responding to other allegations from women. "

Iraqi PM suspends military activity in disputed regions

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday ordered Iraqi government forces to suspend all military activities in parts of the country disputed between Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) for a 24-hour period. According to a statement issued by al-Abadi’s office, the decision was taken with a view to “preventing further bloodshed between the people of a single nation”. Tension has steadily mounted between Baghdad and the Erbil-based KRG since Sept. 25, when Iraqis in KRG-held areas -- and in several disputed parts of the country -- voted on whether or not to declare independence from the Iraqi state. According to poll results announced by the KRG, almost 93 percent of registered voters cast ballots in favor of independence. The unconstitutional referendum was heavily criticized by most regional and international actors, with many warning it would distract from Iraq’s ongoing fight against terrorism and further destabilize the region. Over the cour

Europe rejects Catalonia's independence

European governments have sharply criticized the Catalan Parliament’s decision to declare independence from Spain and announced that they would not recognize it.  In an afternoon of high political drama, Catalonia's separatist-led parliament voted to declare independence from Spain on Friday. Minutes later the Spanish Senate enacted Article 155 of the constitution, which allows Madrid to take direct control of Catalonia, dismiss separatist leaders and trigger regional elections. EU's heavyweight Germany stressed that Catalonia's independence move was a violation of Spain’s constitution, which might further escalate tensions.  "The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Spain are and will remain inviolable," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said in a written statement.  "The Federal Government of Germany does not recognize such a declaration of independence," Steffen Seibert said, adding that Berlin would continue to supp

Switzerland: Assets of Assad's cousin remain blocked

The financial assets of billionaire Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad, will remain frozen in his Swiss accounts after a court rejected his appeal on Friday. Switzerland’s highest court, the Swiss Federal Court, upheld a 2015 decision by an administrative court rejecting Makhlouf’s appeal to unblock his Swiss accounts. "These assets are devolved to the financing of the Syrian regime," the Swiss court said in a statement. Noting the "highest probability that Makhlouf is close to the Syrian government and that there is a risk of financial support to the Syrian government," the court added: "It is necessary to prevent sanctions imposed by Switzerland's trading partners being circumvented on Swiss territory." According to the Swissinfo news agency, Assad has relied on businessmen close to him, most notably Makhlouf, to help keep Syria's economy afloat. Makhlouf is subject to international sanctions

Spanish PM dissolves Catalan Parliament

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Friday night that he has dissolved the Catalan Parliament and called regional elections for Dec. 21. "The state has enough measures to recover legal normality," said Rajoy in the speech, hours after the Catalan Parliament declared independence and the Spanish Senate passed a bill to enact Article 155, which gives Madrid control of Catalonia. Other measures that Rajoy referred to include the dismissal of Catalan political leaders including the president, vice-president and ministers and the closure of Catalan embassies abroad, effective immediately. Madrid also legally now has ultimate control of Catalan institutions, including the regional police force. This is the first time in Spain’s history that Article 155 has been activated and Rajoy said it was a "sad day". Meanwhile, in the so-called Republic of Catalonia, the streets remain full of separatists celebrating the newfound "independence&

Global power balance tilting towards Russia: S-400

Americans are under no illusion that their president, Donald Trump, has any coherent foreign policy or strategy. American experts have even coined new terms for their new leader’s incompetence, such as the “No World Order” and “Trump’s 19th Century World Order.” In his 1997 second-term inaugural speech, then-President Bill Clinton boasted that the 20th century was an “American century. ”The beginning of the millennium, however, marked the ascendance of three successive American presidents, none of whom showed any skills in comprehending the world or maintaining its order. Former President George Bush overestimated America’s capabilities. Having the strongest military that can project power anywhere around the globe is one thing, but asking the military to undertake social engineering and spread democracy is another. To his credit, Bush realized his missteps, and in his second term, started reversing most of his previous democracy-spreading initiatives. Bush

Hezbollah and real victims of US sanctions

U.S. President Donald Trump surprised nobody when he announced that he would refrain from certifying the Iran nuclear deal. The decertification of the deal comes as an additional blow to Obama’s legacy, which Trump adamantly believes have placed the United States and its true allies in a disadvantageous position and subsequently empowered its traditional nemeses, chiefly North Korea and Iran amongst them. While Trump’s decision has left the Iran deal in limbo, it has yet to reinstate or impose new sanctions on Iran, a task which is now left to Congress with 60 days on its hands to weigh in on the matter. Ultimately, the crux of the matter, as Trump has declared, is far removed from Iran’s violation of any clause in the nuclear deal, but rather rests on its destabilizing factor in the region, be it through its development of a ballistic missile program or by aggressive and active intrusion in the domestic affairs of its neighboring countries, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Leban

Nuclear alert B-52: North Korean chemical and biological madness

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan presented a united front Wednesday, as their leading diplomats gathered in Seoul for talks aimed at defusing North Korea’s nuclear threat. Seoul’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa said the three will have to improve cooperation if they are to be successful in denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula peacefully. Kang met U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama before the latter pair were due to hold talks with their South Korean counterpart Lim Sung-nam. “I hope that the three vice ministers hold discussions in detail and, based on them, the three countries seek much closer coordination at the ministerial and leadership levels,” Kang was quoted as saying by local news agency Yonhap. U.S. President Donald Trump is to visit South Korea and Japan in person next month, although Washington is yet to fill its Seoul ambassador position, which has been open since January -- a period that has

Catalan lawmakers vote to declare independence

Catalonia’s leader ruled out elections in a speech on Thursday evening, the day before the Spanish senate is expected to pass a bill that gives Madrid direct control of the region.Puigdemont said that while he was prepared to call elections, Madrid had not provided motivation or guarantees that it would stop the process to impose direct rule."There are no guarantees that justify elections," he said. The Catalan parliament later convened on Thursday evening to debate how to carry out the "independence mandate" and respond to Spain's intention to dissolve the regional government. This is the first time the diverse Catalan parliament has met since the crisis took off in September. The Catalan unionist Socialist party has called for last-minute elections to avoid direct rule from Madrid, while more radical members of the separatists have called for a stronger reaction to article 155, insinuating a declaration of independence is in order.  “Yo

UN: Myanmar to allow food aid into Rakhine

Myanmar will allow the UN to resume food distribution in northern Rakhine state which was suspended for two months after a military crackdown, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday. "WFP has been given the green light to resume food assistance operations in the northern part of Rakhine State. We are currently coordinating with the [Myanmar] government with the details," WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher told a news conference in Geneva on Friday. The office of Myanmar's commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Thursday said some military columns carrying out "clearance operations" would be withdrawn from Buthidaung and Maungtaw townships. It also claimed "engagements" with "rebels" had decreased after Sept. 5 but did not further details on the withdrawal plan. However, three UN human rights experts on Friday said their first fact-finding mission in Bangladesh left them "deeply disturbed by accounts

United Kimgdom urges Russia to stop 'covering up' for Assad

The U.K. has accused Russia of “consistently covering up” for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and undermining the global consensus against the use of chemical weapons. Speaking following the release of a report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations’ Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson criticized Russia for vetoing the extension of an investigation on chemical weapon use during the Khan Sheikhun attack that killed at least 100 people and injured around 500 others on April 4. “This independent report from expert investigators reaches a clear conclusion: the Assad regime used sarin nerve gas against the people of Khan Sheikhun in Syria on 4 April with tragic consequences for hundreds of victims,” Johnson said. Recalling that Russia had “promised to ensure Syria would abandon all of its chemical weapons” in 2013, the foreign secretary said “the investigators have found the As

Turkey's Nurol signs armored vehicle deal with UzAuto

A Turkish armored carmaker on Friday signed a deal for joint production of 1,000 four-wheel drive armored vehicles with an Uzbek firm. Nurol Makina signed the memorandum of understanding with Uzbek firm UzAuto, said a statement from the company, adding that the deal was signed alongside Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s landmark visit to Turkey this week. Under the deal, 1,000 Ejder Yalcin 4x4 tactical armored vehicles -- called "Dragon" in English -- will be co-produced in Uzbekistan. The deal also includes the vehicles' sales to third countries. The Ejder Yalcin 4x4 has a unique design, with the highest level of protection in its class, allowing the vehicle to negotiate all kinds of terrain, including off-road, said the company. According to Nurol Makina's website, the vehicle has a crew capacity of 11 and can reach maximum speeds of 120 kilometers per hour (about 74 miles per hour). The vehicle's engine makes 375 horsepower. The vehi

Turkey, Jordan work on maritime route project

Turkey and Jordan are working on a new project, a maritime route between the ports of partner countries, according to Jordan’s minister of transport. “One of the projects that will be launched soon is the Ro-Ro route from Turkish ports to Port of Aqaba,” Jamal Ali Mucahid told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview. “We will do our best to realize a successful project,” Mucahid added. The project aims to bypass the routes between Turkish ports and Jordan’s sole port through Syria, which were cut off by the eruption of the conflict there in 2011. In 2016, Turkey and Jordan agreed on a Ro-Ro route -- also known as Roll-on/Roll-off -- between the southern port of Iskenderun Turkey and Jordan’s Aqaba, but the deal didn’t become operational. On Thursday, Ankara and Amman signed two deals on cooperation in marine and air transportation fields during the Turkey-Jordan Joint Transportation Meeting. Mucahid also noted Turkish Airlines (THY) would relaunch direct f

United Nation says Syrian siege may amount to war crime

The UN on Friday hit out at the deliberate starvation of at least 350,000 besieged civilians in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, describing it as an “outrage”. It said such as a method of warfare "constitutes a clear violation of international humanitarian law, and may amount to a crime against humanity and/or a war crime". UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in a statement: "I also call on all those with involvement or influence in the conflict to facilitate the access of humanitarian workers so they can deliver the aid that the people of Eastern Ghouta so desperately need." Hussein called on the parties to the conflict to allow "badly needed" food and medical supplies to get into the area. "The shocking images of what appear to be severely malnourished children that have emerged in recent days are a frightening indication of the plight of people in Eastern Ghouta, who are now facing a humanitarian emergenc

Trump shakes Iran deal for political gain; Deal or War?

America and the world have been so focused on President Donald Trump’s decertification of the nuclear deal with Iran that everyone missed the main message behind his step. For decades, Washington tried to separate Iran’s nuclear program from what America calls Tehran’s "destabilizing activities in the region,” reasoning that coming to political terms with Iran might be impossible, and that dissociating nuclear from Iran’s other activities presented the only chance to diffuse Tehran’s ticking nuclear danger, and reaching an agreement. Unlike former U.S. presidents who tried -- and succeeded in the case of Barack Obama -- in separating nuclear from non-nuclear, Trump reversed past policies by mixing Iran’s nuclear and non-nuclear issues. That, not decertification, was the bottom line of his speech. Trump’s decertification before Congress is technical and has little effect on the nuclear agreement with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCOP